My name is Niki Walden and this is how my family is living deeply.
“My husband and I had been struggling with infertility. It’s such a long road- hard beyond words. My anxiety was through the roof. So when we found out we were going to have a baby, we were overjoyed! Annabelle, our daughter, came into the world a few months later. Honestly, we couldn’t have been more thrilled. Here in our arms was the precious child we thought might never come! Life went on like it typically does with a new baby. But we began to notice little things. Annabelle was hitting her milestones- always on the later end, though. She reached 18 months and still hadn’t spoken any words. When she turned two, my husband decided we needed to look into what was going on. Long story short- medical experts diagnosed Annabelle as being on the autism spectrum one year ago in October. It was super hard for me to accept. I remember it took me five months to even come around to having the test done to provide a diagnosis. Last summer, though, the Lord did a work on my heart. Annabelle’s condition comes with challenges, yes, but also strengths that are unique to her. There’s brokenness and blessing, and through it all there’s a certain beauty I’ve come to see. Annabelle has taught me so much as the Lord has used her autism to open my eyes and embrace a very important truth. God has allowed me to see everyone is made in His own image, giving everyone equal dignity regardless of how they communicate or act. I used to worry what others would think if and when Annabelle had meltdowns in public. Now, I try to use it as an opportunity to teach people that God makes everyone different in unique and special ways. I know Annabelle will go far in whatever the Lord has planned for her; I just need to trust and surrender, something I have to do anew every day. One particular passage from Scripture that has brought me immense comfort in this season of life is 2 Corinthians 4:18: ‘So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’ God is always at work in redemptive ways. Ultimately He’ll reveal it all more clearly. And that includes His priceless work in our wonderfully and fearfully made, irreplaceably valuable little girl.”